The B-52 Stratofortresses assigned to the 69th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron operating out of Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar became the first B-52s in the U.S. Air Force to employ the conventional rotary launcher upgrade in combat operations on Nov. 18.
The upgrade enables a bomber to carry eight additional smart munitions inside its bomb bay, in addition to those that are carried on the wings.
The B-52 is one of oldest airframes that the Air Force still operates. The models that the 69 EBS fly, coming off the line between 1960 and 1961, have been in every conflict since the Vietnam War.
Everyone involved with the CRL installation process spent many training hours preparing for the arrival of the hardware from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.
Seven months prior to deploying to Al Udeid, the weapons crew with the 69th Aircraft Maintenance Unit received one training CRL at Minot Air Base, North Dakota. The first operational CRL arrived there four months later.
A U.S. B-52 Bomber sits on a flightline with a newly installed conventional rotary launcher installed in its bomb bay, at Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, Nov. 17, 2017. The CRL will allow the B-52 to carry more smart bombs in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. (Photo by Staff Sgt. Patrick Evenson)
According to Master Sgt. Phillip Plinski, weapons section chief with the 69 EAMU, the team was training on the CRLs directly up to their deployment.
“Most of the crews were out-processing before and after their training, and we ended up finishing four days before the deployment,” Plinski said.
Staff Sgt. Katie Gonzalez, weapons load crew team chief with the 69 EAMU, said even after they arrived in AUAB, they were preparing daily for the arrival of the upgrades.
“All of the training paid off,” Plinski said. “Once the CRLs arrived in Al Udeid all of our aircraft were converted and flying the combat missions within 10 days.”
This was the first time a CRL has been used in a combat sortie with the B-52s.